The time when it’s possible to carry a lightweight power source in your pocket, without being burdened by its size or weight, is getting closer. MIT engineers have developed ultralight and thinner-than-hair fabric solar cells that can transform any surface into a power generator within just seconds.
The engineers tested the limits of a conventional solar panel by bending and twisting their sim-card cells without destroying them. As they are laminated, it’s nearly impossible to rip the solar cells in half without using a sharp tool. The lamination also makes it easy to append these solar cells onto many surfaces.
The engineers, Vladimir Bulović, Mayuran Saravanapavanantham and Jeremiah Mwaura, even suggest that people could eventually bring the superthin solar cells on a boat to power it up as they head out to sea. The researchers envision uses for the product in camping and other outdoor activities, as well as disaster recovery operations, and they claim that applying their invention to the wings of drones can extend their flying range.
The cells are one-hundredth the weight of a conventional solar panel and can generate 18 times more power per kilogram. They’re made from semi-conducting inks using printing processes that can be scaled in the future to large-area manufacturing.